Identities formed with proper names may be contingent. this claim is made first through an example. the paper then develops a theory of the semantics of concrete things, with contingent identity as a consequence. this general theory lets concrete things be made up canonically from fundamental physical entities. it includes theories of proper names, variables, cross-world identity with respect to a sortal, and modal and dispositional properties. the theory, it is argued, is coherent and superior to its rivals, in that (...) it stems naturally from a systematic picture of the physical world. (shrink)
In these three Tanner lectures, distinguished ethical theorist Allan Gibbard explores the nature of normative thought and the bases of ethics. In the first lecture he explores the role of intuitions in moral thinking and offers a way of thinking about the intuitive method of moral inquiry that both places this activity within the natural world and makes sense of it as an indispensable part of our lives as planners. In the second and third lectures he takes up the kind (...) of substantive ethical inquiry he has described in the first lecture, asking how we might live together on terms that none of us could reasonably reject. Since working at cross purposes loses fruits that might stem from cooperation, he argues, any consistent ethos that meets this test would be, in a crucial way, utilitarian. It would reconcile our individual aims to establish, in Kant's phrase, a "kingdom of ends." The volume also contains an introduction by Barry Stroud, the volume editor, critiques by Michael Bratman (Stanford University), John Broome (Oxford University), and F. M. Kamm (Harvard University), and Gibbard's responses. (shrink)
The concepts of meaning and mental content resist naturalistic analysis. This is because they are normative: they depend on ideas of how things ought to be. Allan Gibbard offers an expressivist explanation of these 'oughts': he borrows devices from metaethics to illuminate deep problems at the heart of the philosophy of language and thought.
This paper argues that morality is objective in a specific sense that accords with a broadly expressivist stance in metaethics. The paper also explains that although there is a kind of subjectivity in moral inquiry, the same holds for other kinds of normative inquiry, including epistemic and even scientific inquiry, and moreover that this kind of subjectivity is no threat to morality’s objectivity. The argument for the objectivity of morality draws strong parallels between ethics, epistemology, and science, but does not (...) depend on equally strong parallels between ethics and mathematics. I argue that there is more to learn from a comparison between ethics and mathematics than I used to think, but the difference between the issues that come up in thinking about objectivity in ethics and those that come up in thinking about objectivity in mathematics is substantial, and we cannot carry over results from the philosophy of mathematics to the case of morality. (shrink)
What are ethical judgments about? And what is their relation to practice? How can ethical judgment aspire to objectivity? The past two decades have witnessed a resurgence of interest in metaethics, placing questions such as these about the nature and status of ethical judgment at the very center of contemporary moral philosophy. Moral Discourse and Practice: Some Philosophical Approaches is a unique anthology which collects important recent work, much of which is not easily available elsewhere, on core metaethical issues. Naturalist (...) moral realism, once devastated by the charge of "naturalistic fallacy," has been reinvigorated, as have versions of moral realism that insist on the discontinuity between ethics and science. Irrealist, expressivist programs have also developed with great subtlety, encouraging the thought that a noncognivist account may actually be able to explain ethical judgments' aspirations to objectivity. Neo-Kantian constructivist theories have flourished as well, offering hope that morality can be grounded in a plausible conception of reasonable conduct. Together, the positions advanced in the essays collected here address these recent developments, constituting a rich array of approaches to contemporary moral philosophy's most fundamental debates. An extensive introduction by Darwall, Gibbard, and Railton is also included, making this volume the most comprehensive and up-to-date work of its kind. Moral Discourse is ideally suited for use in courses in contemporary ethics, ethical theory, and metaethics. (shrink)
Rawls' Difference Principle asserts that a basic economic structure is just if it makes the worst off people as well off as is feasible. How well off someone is is to be measured by an ???index??? of ???primary social goods???. It is this index that gives content to the principle, and Rawls gives no adequate directions for constructing it. In this essay a version of the difference principle is proposed that fits much of what Rawls says, but that makes use (...) of no index. Instead of invoking an index of primary social goods, the principle formulated here invokes a partial ordering of prospects for opportunities. (shrink)